Team Needs: New England Patriots

The opportunity to be part of a championship team has been an ongoing selling point for the New England Patriots. To help the Patriots win the Super Bowl three of the last four seasons, many players turned down more money for the chance to become a champion. The window on winning titles may be coming to a close, as an increasing number of players seek to reap personal reward without making all the sacrifices to win.

As New England vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli often notes, it is about getting the right 53 players on the roster, not necessarily the best. One of the last feel-good stories in professional sports, the Patriots are a "team" first. This mentality and philosophy has paid dividends 10 times over with New England's recent run to glory in Super Bowl victories over the St. Louis, Carolina and Philadelphia.

Pioli and coach Bill Belichick have built a team of component parts. Belichick is demanding and his detail for hard work and responsibility cannot be overlooked as this organization faces a potential onslaught of losses within the roster. Filling the holes with unheralded players should provide sufficient hope that the future remains bright.

Despite the injuries and supposed shortcomings, the Patriots have been molded as a well-coached and well-prepared team. That was evident during their road to Super Bowl XXXIX, as New England handily beat the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.


The Patriots are sure to have some new faces in place heading into the 2005 season. With the release of starting cornerback Ty Law, the Patriots are without a shutdown player at the position. While the release of Law got all the attention, the status of potential free agents could reach the critical stage. Numerous starters and quality players could leave the Patriots this offseason during free agency, with offensive linemen Tom Ashworth and Joe Andruzzi leading the list.

It is expected the Patriots will find a way to retain most of their free agents, but securing the services of other high-quality free agents may be difficult. An area that may be troubling is linebacker. Tedy Bruschi, considered the heart and soul of the defense, recently suffered a mild stroke, and Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson, and Bruschi are getting up in age. Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, a key free-agent signee in 2003, hasn't been able to crack the starting lineup due to a serious hip injury.

Departures in the coaching staff will have some impact. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis left to become the head coach at Notre Dame, and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Joining Crennel from the coaching staff in New England was offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. Respected defensive backs coach Eric Mangini turned down offers from the Dolphins and Browns to remain with the Patriots as their defensive coordinator.

The offense could be in for some trouble if the Patriots are unable to retain talent due to salary-cap issues. The wide receiver corps has been solid but lacks depth if David Givens and David Patten depart. Quarterback Tom Brady is an exceptional talent and has benefited from a sound offensive scheme under Weis. The offense is expected to remain the same, but many of the players which fit into the scheme may be replaced.


Approximately $5 million dollars under the league-mandated 2005 salary cap.


Cornerback – Standout cornerback Ty Law has been released and Tyrone Poole is uncertain if he is going to continue playing after suffering a knee injury in 2004. The Patriots are significantly void of depth and quality at the position and will look towards average-level free agents and the draft to stock the roster. The team has signed veteran Ike Charlton, who fits the mold of a New England cornerback. Heis relatively athletic and can play the physical game, but he needs some work to achieve at a high level.

Linebacker – Tedy Bruschi's health status due to his recent mild stroke has left the Patriots with many questions. While the expectation is Bruschi will be able to play in 2005, the team may look to improve the depth at the position in the event the heart and soul of the defense does not return. Willie McGinest, Roman Phifer, and Ted Johnson are all on the wrong side of 32.

Wide receiver – David Givens is a restricted free agent and teams are expected to have an interest in this developing wide receiver. David Patten is an unrestricted free agent and, due to his productivity and big-play potential, could be a viable option for teams in free agency. Troy Brown, who spent the majority of the 2004 season as the team's slot defender, has been a valuable asset, but with a 2005 salary exceeding $5 million, his return is questionable at best. Bethel Johnson has proven to be a solid return man, but has not shown the skill and ability to be a dependable receiver.

Offensive line – Starting tackle Tom Ashworth will be coming back from injury, starting guard Joe Andruzzi is an unrestricted free agent, starting tackle Brandon Gorin is a restricted free agent and starting guard Stephen Neal is a restricted free agent. While it is expected that Neal, Gorin, and Ashworth will re-sign with the Patriots, their availability on the free-agent market has to be noticed. Andruzzi would like to remain with the Patriots, but teams are showing interest in the veteran. He could receive an offer too good for the Patriots to match.






UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: PK Adam Vinatieri; OG Joe Andruzzi; WR David Patten; FB Patrick Pass; S Je'Rod Cherry; LB Don Davis; WR Kevin Kasper; OT Adrian Klemm; QB Jim Miller; RB Rabih Abdullah.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: OT Tom Ashworth; OG Stephen Neal; WR David Givens; OT Brandon Gorin; DL Jarvis Green; CB Earthwind Moreland.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: DT Ethan Kelley; OL Gene Mruczkowski; S Guss Scott.

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